By Andy Glockner
March 09, 2009

On Wednesday, coach Keno Davis was pushing the position that Providence (19-13, 10-8; RPI: 71; SOS: 60) didn't have to beat Louisville to get an at-large. That was unlikely to begin with, but even Davis probably realizes that an 18-point loss to the Cardinals doesn't even qualify as a moral victory for consideration. The defeat leaves the Friars just 2-8 against the RPI Top 50 and 6-13 against the Top 100. As bubble peers like Minnesota (21-9, 9-9, RPI: 41; SOS: 41) continue to advance in other tournaments, it looks like the NIT for Provy.

Speaking of the Gophers, they used a late 14-0 rally to thwart Northwestern and take an important step toward the NCAAs. They now draw the one-seed Michigan State. Win, and they're in. Lose, and it will be fairly close one way or the other.

In another early knockout game, Virginia Tech (18-13, 7-9; RPI: 63; SOS: 23) routed Miami (17-12, 7-9; RPI: 52, SOS: 25), which should end the Canes' slim hopes. The Hokies now get a banged-up UNC squad in the quarters. It's not certain a win will be enough, but they have to get that one and then we can reevaluate.

The biggest seeding news came from the Big 12, where top-seeded Kansas lost to Baylor in the quarterfinals. Kansas was a three-seed in today's bracket and won't go any higher than that now. Could they drop to a four? Depends on what teams like Washington, Clemson, Missouri, etc. do in their postseasons. Baylor is now two wins away from theiving the auto bid and knocking out a bubble team.Huge bubble games in progress involve Michigan (against Iowa), Kansas State (vs. Texas) and Arizona (against Arizona State) ... stay tuned.

The margin for error in March always is slim, but in the NEC final Wednesday night, the margin was one -- as in one extra player on the court. Late in the first half, Mount St. Mary's was T'd up for inbounding with six men in the game. Robert Morris made both free throws ... and ended up winning the game (and the auto bid) by a deuce on a jumper with 2.5 seconds left.


Speaking of final seconds, Portland State repeated as Big Sky tournament champs by dunking the Cinderella run of under-.500 Montana State with 3.5 ticks left (and Chattanooga fans continue looking for Dayton hotel rooms).

On the flip side, the wait (and the weight) is now on Texas A&M after the Aggies frittered away a 19-point halftime lead and lost to Texas Tech. Significant credit goes to Tech's Mike Singletary, who scored 29 straight points down the stretch for the Red Raiders, on his way to 43 for the game. Smart money would be on the Aggies to hang on and make the NCAAs, but losing this early in the week makes you a sitting duck for those behind you. This was not a good idea.

Enjoy the bazillion important games today. The picture likely will look quite different tomorrow.

(Records listed are Division I only, per NCAA Tournament selection guidelines. All RPI and SOS data are from Thursday's RPI report.)

Locks: North Carolina, Duke, Wake Forest, Clemson, Florida StateCarolina held off Duke and all but wrapped up a No. 1 seed in the NCAAs. Wake took care of Clemson and should get locational preference. Could Florida State jump past the Tigers? The Seminoles nabbed the four-seed and likely will the chance in the 4-5 quarterfinal against a Clemson team that now has to play Georgia Tech the day before. That would be huge, as the winner might end up in Miami and the loser may get shipped west.

SHOULD BE INThanks to Rakim Sanders' last-second baseline fadeaway that beat Georgia Tech, Boston College (21-10, 9-7; RPI: 57, SOS: 68) probably won't have to sweat on Selection Sunday. It's not that the Eagles' profile is that good, but with so many bubble spots open and teams tripping up left and right behind them, an over-.500 ACC mark and wins at North Carolina and over Duke should be enough. Beating Virginia in the first round of the ACC tourney would be a good insurance plan, though.

IN THE MIX Virginia Tech (17-13, 7-9; RPI: 63; SOS: 23)See above.

The loss at Virginia is an absolute killer for Maryland (18-12, 7-9; RPI: 67; SOS: 29), which ended below-.500 in the league and has lost three of four since its home upset of North Carolina. Granted, the two home games were against Duke and Wake Forest, but now with a 3-8 mark against the RPI top 50, the Terps likely need a deep ACC tournament run to get in. That starts against NC State and then, with a win, against two-seed Wake Forest.

Locks: Oklahoma, Missouri, Kansas, TexasTexas made sure it didn't make a big mistake and lose to league minnow Colorado, and it bumps up as the fourth team in the Big 12 mix. Oklahoma State was similarly prudent, handling Iowa State and moves up to SBI. Texas A&M? The Aggies blew a 20-point lead and lost to 11-seed Texas Tech. Will that cost A&M seeding ... or something more? Nebraska's modest hopes ended early with a loss to Baylor.

SHOULD BE IN Oklahoma State (21-10, 9-7; RPI: 25; SOS: 7) got the win it needed over K-State. Saturday's strong losing effort against at Oklahoma shouldn't hurt, even if it broke a six-game winning streak. The Pokes ended up as the conference's 7-seed, which might not be a bad thing. They get Iowa State in today's first round before a third meeting with the Sooners, which they might not have to win.

IN THE MIX Texas A&M (22-9, 9-7; RPI: 34, SOS: 44) -- and its at-large hopes -- took a really hard hit from Mike Singletary. No, not the former Bears MLB and 49ers head coach -- Texas Tech's Mike Singletary, who poured in 43 points in Texas Tech's epic rally from 20 points down. Now the Aggies should be really glad that they punched out Missouri to close the regular season. Before that game, a scenario that included a loss there and a win in the first round of the Big 12 tourney had the Aggies very close to the cutline. What does the reverse scenario do for them? It's slightly better getting the marquee-type win, but this loss is pretty scary this early in championship week. The Aggies are still in today's bracket, but they now should start rooting hard for all the teams ahead of them, as they don't want to be passed by too many teams playing their way in.

Kansas State (20-10, 9-7; RPI: 77; SOS: 117) missed some chances down the stretch and now is in position where it, at least, has to beat (assumedly) Texas in the 4-5 quarterfinal. Given the Wildcats' dreadful nonleague SOS and only five Top 100 wins on the season, it's possible that wouldn't even be enough.

Locks: Pitt, Connecticut, Louisville, Marquette, Villanova, Syracuse, West VirginiaThe situation in the Big East gets simpler by the day, and almost was complete until Providence's late push got the Friars past DePaul. Louisville awaits to help determine whether the Beast will get seven or eight teams into the NCAAs. West Virginia moves to lock status after taking care of Notre Dame. There's no way the Eers will be passed by enough teams to miss. The faint at-large hopes for the Irish are gone.


In The MixSee update.

Locks: Michigan State, Purdue, IllinoisThe top three are in. After that? Take them all? Take almost none? Just declare the Big Ten quarterfinals as a play-in round and check back after that?

SHOULD BE INNone, until the quarterfinals are over.

IN THE MIXHere's the batting order heading into the Big Ten tournament.

Wisconsin (18-11, 10-8, RPI: 38, SOS: 15) lost at Minnesota but beat Indiana to finish with wins in seven of its final nine games. The Badgers only have a win at Virginia Tech to promote in non-league play but have the best record against the other five teams in the mix along with the toughest overall conference schedule. They will play Ohio State (20-9, 10-8; RPI: 37; SOS: 33) in the quarterfinal after the Buckeyes held off Northwestern on Sunday. The Buckeyes have non-league wins over Miami, Butler and Notre Dame and a slightly better top 50 mark but faced a weaker conference slate. Which team is ahead right now is irrelevant. The winner of their quarterfinal is headed to the NCAAs while the loser retains a fairly decent chance to get in.

The next three will all be in action on the first day of the Big Ten tourney and will face stern quarterfinal tests should they advance. If any of these teams win two in a row, they're going to get in. Win one, and we'll see. Lose to a bottom-feeder and that's a route to the NIT.

Michigan (18-12, 9-9; RPI: 42, SOS: 10) appears slightly ahead of the other two at this point. The Wolverines are one of the few teams that actually came up with a big performance when it needed one, winning at Minnesota to help create this logjam. They have two marquee non-league wins (Duke and UCLA); Minnesota has one (Louisville), Penn State has none. Michigan also went 3-1 against the Golden Gophers and Nittany Lions and played the hardest league slate of the three.

Penn State (21-10, 10-8; RPI: 66; SOS: 103) The Nittany Lions' double-overtime loss to Iowa was really costly, as they now ended up as the six-seed in the Big Ten tourney. That means a useless first-round game against Indiana before what very well could be a make-or-break quarterfinal against Purdue. Michigan gets Iowa and then Illinois, should it beat the Hawkeyes.

Locks: Washington, Arizona State, UCLA, CalCal makes it four locks for the Pac-10 after splitting the Arizona road weekend. Speaking of Arizona, can the Wildcats (or someone else) hold on to make it or could the very competitive Pac-10 find itself with just four bids?


IN THE MIX Arizona (19-12, 9-9; RPI: 54, SOS: 31) only managed a split at home against Cal and Stanford and now finds itself in a rather uncomfortable spot. If the season ended today, the Cats likely would make the field of 65, but it doesn't and now they might need to beat in-state rival Arizona State in the Pac-10 quarters. A third loss to the Sun Devils (after two nailbiters in league play) could leave the Cats vulnerable. The Cats did beat Kansas, Gonzaga and San Diego State out of conference (and lost at Texas A&M and UNLV), so they have more than most bubble teams to lean on.

USC (18-12, 9-9; RPI: 61, SOS: 27) also finished at .500 in the league but has a much worse résumé than Arizona. The Trojans need to beat Cal -- a team they've played well against -- in the Pac-10 quarters, and then take their chances (assumedly) against UCLA after that. Washington State (16-14, 8-10; RPI: 88, SOS: 66) probably needs the auto bid and is a quarter of the way there after beating Oregon Wednesday night.

Locks: LSUThe Tigers celebrated their title by losing to Vandy and at Auburn, which will compromise their NCAA seeding. Will that win give Auburn the boost to jump into the at-large fray? Is it possible, with the wrong sequence of SEC tournament results, that this league could end up with just two bids?

SHOULD BE INHow can you sum up this conference any better than Tennessee (19-11, 10-6; RPI: 22; SOS: 2), fresh off wins at Florida and South Carolina that clinched the top seed in the East, losing at home to Alabama and gifting a share of the division crown to South Carolina? The Vols should be fine for an at-large, but that's just a disappointing loss.

IN THE MIXSouth Carolina (21-8, 10-6; RPI: 49; RPI: 94) gleefully accepted that present, as it's a nice bow to put on a profile that's remarkably empty for a large-conference division co-champ. Since Florida just crept into the RPI top 50, the Gamecocks are now 1-5 in that category (having split with the Gators), are just 5-6 away from home, and have a non-league SOS in the 270s. They beat Auburn and swept Kentucky, if that comes into play. Their best non-league win is a one-point decision at now-disappointing Baylor. The Gamecocks would be wise not to crash out in the SEC quarterfinals against Mississippi State (or Georgia). That could leave them open to what, on the surface, would look like a surprising omission.

Florida (22-9, 9-7; RPI: 48; SOS: 92) is next after downing Kentucky on Saturday in what was a virtual at-large elimination game. That's not saying a whole lot, though, as the Gators are right on the fringe of the bracket this week. The looming quarterfinal with Auburn (20-10, 10-6; RPI: 64; SOS; 63), should Florida beat Arkansas, is a knockout game for at-large consideration. The Tigers muscled their way into the discussion by winning eight of their last nine, but have more work to do than the Gators. They beat Tennessee and split with LSU, but the non-league slate is pretty barren save for a win at Virginia.

Kentucky (19-12, 8-8; RPI: 79, SOS: 59) has now lost eight of its last 12, and is in a lot of trouble. That said, a deep SEC run could save the 'Cats as they have a bit more in their résumé than even some peers in this league (wins over Kansas State and West Virginia in non-league play, a sweep of Tennessee and a split with Florida). It will take a minimum of making the semifinals, and it might require a finals appearance, but it's not impossible given what's happened elsewhere this week. The 'Cats got off to a good start by beating Ole Miss in the first round of the SEC tournament and now draw LSU.

Locks: XavierXavier locked down the league crown again, but the bigger excitement is what's happening behind the X-men.

SHOULD BE IN Dayton (25-6, 11-5; RPI: 23, SOS: 90) couldn't win at Xavier, but was gifted a share of second place when Rhode Island lost at home to UMass. It's unclear if the Flyers needed that perception boost, but every bit helps. If they take care of the Richmond/St. Bonaventure winner, the Flyers should feel good.

IN THE MIXA last-second home loss to UMass Saturday definitely hurts Rhode Island (22-9, 11-5; RPI: 65; SOS: 135), but it doesn't change the overall mission. The Rams need to beat Dayton and make the A-10 final. Temple (19-11, 11-5; RPI: 40; SOS: 35) also gained a share of second place and has better computer numbers, but ended up on Xavier's side of the draw. The problem is if they beat the X-men in the semis, they'd probably have to win the final, too.

Locks: BYU, UtahThe arch rivals ended up sharing the league crown with New Mexico and have overall profiles that make them at-large worthy. This is assuredly a two-bid league and could get as many as four, so the top two teams get locked up.


IN THE MIXGiven the backsliding around the land, last week's Bubble Watch may have overstated the damage to the loser of Saturday's game between UNLV (21-9, 9-7; RPI: 56, SOS: 88) and San Diego State (19-8, 11-5; RPI: 43, SOS: 57). What I meant to say is that the loser of this week's game between UNLV and San Diego State will be done as an at-large.

That's rough justice on the Aztecs, who held serve at home to sweep the Rebels, finished ahead of them in the standings, and now have to beat them a third time, on UNLV's home court, but that's the reality now that they drew each other in the quarterfinal. UNLV might need to beat BYU and make the final after finishing fifth in the conference, but first things first.

After beating Utah and escaping at Wyoming, New Mexico (21-10, 12-4; RPI: 58, SOS: 82) grabbed a share of the conference crown, which is going to make things difficult for the Selection Committee. The Lobos might still have an inferior profile to the San Diego State/UNLV quarterfinal winner. New Mexico has won 12 of its last 15 games, but split all four series with the contenders (losing all four road games) and swept all eight games against the league's bottom four. This is also a team that lost to Creighton, Central Florida, VCU, Drake, Texas Tech and UTEP in non-league play. The Lobos don't have a top 100 win away from home and are a very difficult team to slot at the moment. They open the MWC tourney with another game against Wyoming after Saturday's one-point win in Laramie.

Auto Bids: Gonzaga, SienaLocks: Memphis, ButlerThe Zags and Saints won the WCC and MAAC respectively as 1-seeds and won't take up precious at-large spots. That could be good news for some of the teams listed below (and above).



In what seems to be a growing mid-major plague, Saint Mary's (23-6, 10-4; RPI: 46; SOS: 143) did exactly what it didn't want to do Monday night, getting blasted on national TV by Gonzaga with star guard Patty Mills still looking rusty after his layoff from a broken hand. The Gaels are still 19-2 with Mills, but coming off a sluggish win over Portland, the committee has to be wondering if this is that SMC team. The scheduling of the extra game on Friday against Eastern Washington now could prove to be a masterstroke, as the Gaels will have one final chance to look better, albeit against an overmatched opponent in a game that's not scheduled to be televised. Better let the selection committee know a DVD is coming.

The Gaels, without Mills, beat Utah State (should it need an at-large), so that's a plus, but it likely will come down to whether the committee thought Monday was just a bad night, or that Mills just isn't healthy and SMC just isn't the same team, even with him physically back.

Utah State (26-4, 14-2; RPI: 28, SOS: 134) coach Stew Morrill has made some media waves lately, condemning those who condemn his Aggies for their perennially weak nonleague schedule -- one that could cost his team an NCAA bid should it not win the WAC auto bid.

Here are some thoughts on the matter: 1) While I'm all for non-BCS programs sticking up for their scheduling rights and not kowtowing constantly to name programs, it wouldn't kill USU to take an occasional 2-for-1 with someone like North Carolina. Nevada, which has a better recent pedigree in the same league, just finished a series with the Heels and no one thinks less of the Pack's program. That doesn't mean you need to offer that to everyone, but one elite nonleague game to go with BYU and Utah will really help impressions. Alternately (or in addition), get into a decent exempt tournament and play some better teams on neutral floors.

2) USU has already wasted multiple chances to ice a bid. The Aggies went to Saint Mary's (without Patty Mills) and lost. Then they went to Nevada and lost. Now they might have to face Nevada again on its home court, which isn't very fair, but it didn't need to come to this, either.

Even if the Aggies miss on the auto bid, they have a decent chance for an at-large, but this is where the schedule comes in. Whatever the reasons, USU didn't do a good enough job there.

Think Creighton (26-7, 14-4; RPI: 39, SOS: 110) took notice of Saint Mary's Vegas pratfall? Now the Bluejays aren't the only mid-major bubble team coming off a bad tourney loss.

It's hard to say right now that Creighton is going to end up in the NIT, but it's a distinct possibility now after they might have been one win away from an at-large. In their defense, the Jays beat New Mexico and hammered Dayton in non-league play. A comparison with Utah State, should the Aggies need an at-large, would be very interesting.

Because of the SoCon's two divisions and a tiebreaker scenario, Davidson (25-7, 18-2; RPI: 69; SOS: 164) drew a semifinal against the league's second-best team. The Wildcats lost for the second time this season to College of Charleston, and now it looks pretty likely they will end up in the NIT. As much as everyone wants to see Stephen Curry in the NCAAs, it doesn't appear they have done enough to land an at-large. Their computer numbers and best win (West Virginia) basically mimic Kentucky's, and those Wildcats are not in at this point, either.

ON THE PERIPHERYThere's not much left in this category. UAB (21-10, 11-5; RPI: 44, SOS: 69) has too many C-USA losses and not enough good wins. Niagara (26-7, 14-4; RPI: 51; SOS: 147) was game in a seven-point loss at Siena in the MAAC final, but the Purple Eagles likely will end up in the NIT. So will Valley title-game loser Illinois State (24-9, 11-7; RPI: 47; SOS: 102) and CAA runner-up George Mason (22-10, 13-5; RPI: 53; SOS: 101).

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